Picture yourself standing in the grocery store. You’re staring at the plethora of brightly colored cereal boxes, trying hard to choose one that doesn’t have too much sugar but doesn’t taste like cardboard. You’re singing softly along with the music playing over the speakers, bopping your head along, still trying to decide on a box of cereal. A lady passes behind you, singing to the baby sitting in her cart. The older gentlemen perusing the varieties of Shredded Wheat is humming happily to himself. Then it dawns on you, you’re all singing the same song. And you realize to yourself, you hate this damn song. But every single time you hear it, you can’t help but sing along. You’re compelled.
Well my friend, you are not alone. There are so many songs out there that for some reason or another you are hopeless to ignore and will find impossible not to sing along with. Here is a sampling of just a few of the ones that always seem to get to me. I’ve listed them in order of the year of their release because I couldn’t put them in a particular order of…brain stickiness (patent pending).
You Really Got Me — The Kinks (August 1964): I have no idea what kind of a rock you’d have to be living under to not know this song. It’s a big one. I mean, Rolling Stone Magazine voted it number 4 on the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. Also, Van Halen covered it in 1978, but I’m going to pretend like that didn’t happen. It hurts my heart (and ears) too much.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction — The Rolling Stones (June 1965): Whether it’s the catchy guitar riff or the lyrics about sexual frustration and commercialism that we can all relate to, this song is one that multiple generations rock along with.
My Generation — The Who (October 1965): Who doesn’t love to stutter along with Roger Daltry in “My Generation”? It’s one of those great classic rock songs that each new generation can identify with. Plus, it featured one of the first bass solos in rock and roll history, fabulously played by bassist John Entwistle.
Secret Agent Man — Johnny Rivers (1966): Used as the opening for the TV series Secret Agent, this song features one of the most famous mondegreens in popular music. No kiddies, he’s not the secret Asian man. And also, oh my god, do I love this song. Seriously.
Wild Thing — The Troggs (1966): It doesn’t just make me sing, it makes my heart sing. It makes everything groovy.
Happy Together — The Turtles (February 1967): There’s no big mystery as to why this song is so well known. Featured in over twenty movies, numerous television shows and covered by artists as diverse as Weezer, Petula Clark, Captain and Tennille, Filter and the Flobots. Wikipedia estimates there’s been as many as five million performances of “Happy Together” on American Radio. Holy cow!
Daydream Believer — The Monkees (June 1967): The bubbly lyrics mixed with Davy Jones’s candy coated voice and an upbeat melody makes this song downright habit-forming.
Hey Jude — The Beatles (August 1968): There’s no way I’d make a list like this and not include the Beatles. As a
obsessive devoted fan, I actually tend to sing along to all their songs. I chose “Hey Jude” for the list because I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t know the lyrics. Its most recent showing of worldwide appeal was at the opening ceremonies for the 2012 summer Olympic Games in London. Below is the April 2009 video of 13,500 people together in Trafalgar Square singing and swaying along to one of the most enduring and endearing songs of all time.
Sweet Caroline — Neil Diamond (September 1969): You know a song is catchy when you sing along to the instrumental parts. Think about it. When you sing “Sweet Caroline” you totally sing it like this:
(bum bum bum)
Good times never seemed so good.
I’ve been inclined,
(bum bum bum)
To believe they never would.
Don’t lie, you know you do it. You can’t fool me.
Tiny Dancer — Elton John (February 1972): Resonant lyrics by Bernie Taupin and a delicate, rolling melody by Elton make this song feel like a healing balm for the soul. If this scene from the 2000 movie “Almost Famous” doesn’t explain it, nothing will:
Mamma Mia — ABBA (Septmember 1975): Damn those Swedes and their incessant joy- filled music!
Bohemian Rhapsody — Queen (October 1975): Holy mother of rock anthems! This one’s a doozie, innit? First off, it’s Queen. I mean, we could really just stop right there, couldn’t we? But it gets better! You’ve got this song that doesn’t follow normal song structure, instead you get a ballad, guitar solo, operatic passage, hard rock and then a breath taking outro! I mean, WOW! I have a video of my drunken friends singing the whole thing, but I’m not mean enough to post it. So you get “Wayne’s World” instead!
Come Sail Away — Styx (1977): I once had an argument with my friend’s dad over the subject matter of this song. I suppose it doesn’t matter in the end, because no matter what you’re doing when this song comes on, you just have to sing along. Even Eric Cartman isn’t immune.
Stayin’ Alive — Bee Gees (December 1977): Bell bottoms, gold medallions, chest hair and a serious strut. Hell yes, I love to belt this one out when I hear it. Also, it really helps with chest compressions while you’re performing CPR. One hundred and four beats per minute baby!
I Will Survive — Gloria Gaynor (October 1978): A Disco anthem, symbol of female empowerment and fabulously crooned by drag queens around the world. Hell, even CAKE covered it!
September — Earth, Wind & Fire (November 1978): This is one of those songs that instantly brings a smile to my face when I hear it. I was standing in an Ulta once, picking out some make-up, and this song came on. I heard a couple people singing along and looked up to see half of the store dancing while they shopped. Seriously, how great is that?
Y.M.C.A — The Village People (November 1978): Have you ever been to a wedding where this song wasn’t played? I mean, not only can you sing to it, there’s a dance too! Apparently the dance originated from Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. I learn something new everyday!
My Sharona — The Knack (June 1979): Perverted and catchy, Sharona’s a double whammy!
Tainted Love — Soft Cell (July 1981): A cover of the Gloria Jones song from 1965, Soft Cell’s version featured a slower tempo, different key, and synthesizers and rhythm machines replacing the original version’s guitar, bass, drums and horns. It was quintessentially 80′s.
Don’t Stop Believin’ — Journey (October 1981): I have a friend who hates “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Every time she says she hates it, I love her a little bit less. I mean really, who hates Journey? And this song….this song is epic.
Under Pressure — Queen & David Bowie (October 1981): Bowie and Queen in the same place. I have no words. Just fabulous.
The Safety Dance — Men Without Hats (January 1983): Walk into a room and sing “We can dance if we want to” and I guarantee you someone will finish the lyrics. And then everyone will dance.
Sister Christian — Night Ranger (June 1984): ”Sister Christian” is one of those guilty pleasures. You won’t admit you like it, but when you’re sitting in your car in the middle of the night and it comes on the radio, you use your steering wheel as a drum kit and sing your heart out. Yup, I’ve been watching you. I know your secrets.
It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — R.E.M. (November 1987): You know what I love about this song? Most people (myself included) can actually sing only the chorus and yell “Leonard Bernstein” at the right moment, yet they will totally mumble along with the rest of the lyrics just because it’s such a fun song.
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) — The Proclaimers (August 1988): Did you know this song has charted in three different decades? It’s just that awesome. For any of my fellow Whovians out there, I sincerely hope you have seen this video, which was a farewell to the David Tennant and Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who:
A Little Respect — Erasure (September 1988): This song is like a virus!
Love Shack — The B-52′s (September 1989): TIN ROOF…rusted!
Part of Your World — Jodi Benson (December 1989 from Disney’s The Little Mermaid): Ok, so I admit this one is a purely generational thing. But you name me one girl in her twenties that can’t sing the entire thing. Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Unbelievable — EMF (1990): OH! You’re unbelievable.
I’m Too Sexy — Right Said Fred (July 1991): Squidoo rated this song #7 on “The Ten Worst Songs Ever”. Doesn’t keep it from getting stuck in my head though. Excuse me while I go do a little turn on the catwalk.
Baby Got Back — Sir Mix-a-Lot (May 1992): Yeah, I cannot lie. I totally sing along to this one anytime I hear it.
What is Love — Haddaway (May 1993): I bet you can’t sing this without bobbing your head to the side.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s — Deep Blue Something (July 1995): I sat next to a kid in geometry class in high school who was always singing this song. Like, all the damn time. I almost brained him with a text book. Needless to say, I had it stuck in my head for nine months straight. Asshole.
Wonderwall — Oasis (October 1995): Despite the fact that the Gallagher brothers can’t stop fighting for thirty seconds and despite the fact that the boys constantly compared themselves to the Beatles (not okay in my book), I still simply adore this song. Absolutely stunning.
Wannabe — Spice Girls (June 1996): I was eleven when this song came out. It rocked my world. I had no idea what the lyrics meant (if they meant anything at all) and I did not care. All I knew was the Spice Girls were my new gods and it was time to worship at their altar. Thankfully at some point I regained control of my brain function and was able to lead a healthy and productive life. However, “Wannabe” has it’s place on my iPod, and I still slam my body down and zigazig ah.
Where It’s At — Beck (July 1996): Bottles and cans, just clap your hands, just clap your hands!
What I Got — Sublime (August 1996): “What I Got” is very popular among my group of friends (except for the one that also hates “Don’t Stop Believin’) so anytime we hear it, we all sing together and have happy friendship bonding time.
Bittersweet Symphony — The Verve (June 1997): Symphonic melodies, a thumping beat and lyrics for Generation X that were reminiscent of The Who’s “My Generation”. This song is gorgeous, memorable and just a joy to sing.
Tubthumping — Chumbawamba (August 1997): Oh Chumbawamba, what have you done? This song is evil. You can’t not sing it!